Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

Osito

Osito looks like an interesting iPhone app, which pulls together important information about your day-to-day life so you have easy access to things like calendar events, traffic, weather, etc, tied together so that it’s relevant to what your doing.

They call it “predictive intelligence”:

Unlike other applications, services or even personal assistants, Osito learns what you need to know based on the information you provide it — including your location, updates from your calendar, email and your daily routine. This means that Osito can provide you useful, personalized insights like a heads up there’s a traffic jam 20 minutes before your usual departure time or a weather alert before you leave for a lunch meeting.

I love this kind of move towards providing intelligent, relevant information in order to assist you, rather than having to dig into individual apps and resources to find relevant information. There are massive accessibility gains to be had from this kind of approach, as anything which acts as an assistant can be so, so helpful. As a low vision mobile user, I find it really frustrating to have to dig around and find information while on the go. Standing in a busy street hunting for information on my phone is a horrible experience.

Shame I don’t have an iPhone at the moment, else I’d be all over this. And Google Now promised a similar productivity gain, but that’s not supported on my particular Android brick at the moment. It’s a shame that this kind of stuff is only available on high-end devices — a web service which does the same thing would be brilliant.

RNIB guide to Apple accessibility

The RNIB have put together a really useful guide to accessibility on Apple devices, aimed at blind and low-vision users. There’s lots of detail in there for Mac and iOS devices, with overviews of features like VoiceOver, zooming and type-ahead, as well as tips on things like how to alter contrast and invert screen colours.

You can download the guide by following this link. Only disappointing thing about this document is that it’s only available in RTF and Word formats. Would be nice if RNIB would put it online as an HTML guide.

Google Glass is a clear winner for the blind

Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet‘s Head of Digital Inclusion, on the accessibility angle of Google Glass:

I myself as a blind person, for example, could really do with a pair of eyes that are always looking where I’m looking and, at the same time, applying some significant smarts to what’s in front of me. OK, so Google Glass only has one eye – but one eye’s better than none believe me!

Apple continuing to innovate for accessibility in iOS6

Apple announced the feature-set of the upcoming iOS release yesterday, and I’m always interested to see the new accessibility features. And like with everything else Apple do, they’re not standing still in this area at all:

iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.

It’s easy to be cynical when Apple make a song and dance about how empowering their technology and software can be, like in this video aired at WWDC yesterday — but the fact is, this kind of thoughtful and inclusive application of technology does improve people’s lives.

The blind shooting the blind

If you were ever in doubt about how empowering technology can be for people with disabilities:

I simply gawped when one blind woman pulled out an iPhone then snapped a perfect shot, guided by the built-in Camera app.

Eventually a common theme became apparent: Apple’s applications — Calendar, Messages, Mail, iPhoto, even Maps and most surprisingly Camera — are completely usable by blind people. These applications aren’t using any kind of secret API sauce. They’re using the same UIAccessibility framework you and I have access to.

The meat of this article si less inspiring though, as it discusses the failure of so many app developers to pu the powerful APIs at their fingertips, to good use for creating accessible apps.

This seems to be a common theme, and something which desperately needs to change. I love this little snippet from this post:

Here, then, lies the answer to how to tell whether some developer you’ve just met (or are interviewing) is serious about their craft in five seconds flat: borrow their device, and triple-click the home button. If you don’t hear “VoiceOver on”, or get prompted about VoiceOver, consider that −3 points on the Steve Test.

Hot new iPhone apps fail when it comes to accessibility

Joe Clark has some strong words for the current crop of popular iPhone apps:

iPhones and iPads are the easiest systems to make accessible in the history of computing. iOS, moreover, is the funnest accessible development environment there ever was. You’ll have a whale of a time testing this shit out. VoiceOver, like an Oscar Pistorius prosthesis, is actually cool.

But if you can’t make it happen in the first place, you suck as a developer.

Accessibility seems to be getting sidelined when it comes to creating apps, and it’s a worrying trend.

Are sub-$100 smartphones a scam?

Apurva Chaudhary has posted about the sub $100 smartphone market which is set to boom in India. She quotes Deloitte who say that consumers are willing to make a trade-off on speed, quality, performance and connectivity. Apurva’s take though, is that these devices are a scam:

Sure, for someone who is jumping from a Nokia 2600 to a low cost smartphone, these doesn’t matter. But these are the same people who later get frustrated cause the phone is slow or doesn’t respond. Camera quality is so low that it’s embarrasing to click photos. These are the people, who after using a low end smartphone switch to high performing Smartphone. These phones are just a scam by manufacturers who promise to be a smartphone but aren’t really.

Not entirely sure I agree with this premise. Much of the consumer technology people buy is marketed as being desirable, and with a focus on making people aspire to own a new, better, faster, shinier model. These phones might be low-spec, but I certainly don’t think they’re pretending to be anything they’re not.

Fragmentation Is Not The End of Android

Really insightful post from Charlie Kindel about how he sees the fragmentation of Android in the context of the current mobile ecosystem:

The fragmentation of Android is very real and very problematic for end users, developers, mobile operators, device manufacturers, and Google. However fragmentation does not mean Android is going to “die” or “fail” as some seem to think.

On the contrary I think we can count on Android playing a significant role in our world for a long, long time. I also am confident that Google has already lost control of Android and has zero chance of regaining control. This post explains why I’m so confident about this.

He goes on to explain his thinking in quite some detail. I found myself agreeing with pretty much everything he has to say.